Bamboo Flooring Installation – Confessions of a Do It Yourselfer

I planned my flooring installation project to take a long weekend to install 1500 sf of flooring. I was pretty sure that my Fair Pacific bamboo flooring ( would go down just about as fast as I could pull each plank from the box.

What I learned I am going to tell you now. I wish someone had told me this before. Lucky you!

1. Know your subfloor and prep it before installation. Many contractors I spoke with said that subfloor prep is the biggest hidden gotcha. This may include duct work repair, replacement of bad subfloor material, leveling, squeaks and hidden protrusions. If you are nailing, make sure the subfloor wood has enough integrity to hold a nail. Pay attention to elevation changes (steps, transitions to other flooring) and prepare them as you need. Prepping the subfloor took me two full days that I had not anticipated.

2. Plan ahead before you lift. When the flooring arrives, have a plan for moving the product to where it needs to go for storage and acclimation. Also think about your home furnishings and where they need to go. My flooring weighed 3,200 pounds in 65 pound boxes. I moved them many more times than I should have. In hindsight, I’d have known how many boxes went in each room and I’d have moved them there right from the truck.

3. Open one box at a time and note any relative color differences in each box. Do not install your flooring one box at a time or else you will create subtle patches of color and hue which will stand out. My flooring had subtle variations in hue, so quickly learned to randomly mix them during installation. It looks great!

4. Get an extra box. Keep it in the garage for future repairs. I took extra care moving the piano back into the family room, including putting cardboard down. Someone closely related to me who I refuse to name publicly was not as careful on their end and we found the floor gouged.

5. Water always wins. Where there’s water or moisture, there’s going to be warping. If you anticipate moisture in a particular room or area, there are ways to combat the moisture. I always recommend installing a moisture barrier over the subfloor. In areas likely to receive direct moisture, such as around the sink, in bathrooms, by the fridge and at the foot of outside doorways, consider applying an extra coat of surface polyurethane (not a penetrating sealer or else the boards may expand) to the bottoms and end cuts of your floor boards. Then put in mats where you can. And if you have any excessive humidity, consider an air conditioning system to protect your floor and all your wood products.

6. Stagger the joints. Each new row of flooring should begin with a random-length piece against the wall. One guy I talked with started each row with evenly measured lengths (one foot, two feet, three feet, etc.). Halfway through the job, he noticed the seams lining up across the span of his floor and had to start over.

7. If you use glue, make sure to use Bostiks Best. This is not a paid endorsement, but a recommendation I received from a contractor who once used a different product. Some glue can be absorbed into the flooring and cause warping – Bostik’s will not. The warping went away after a short time after the glue cured, but the emotional damage was done.

8. Flooring nailer. I initially rented a flooring nailer/stapler that uses compressed air to drive the nails. I learned two things. One, the pressure setting is critical so be sure to set the pressure to the minimum setting that will drive the nail in, not explode it through the flooring. And two, I ended up finishing the job with a manual flooring nailer and found it to be better for me because it was easier to move around and easy to drive the nails.

9. Wear spots. By the refrigerator door, under chairs, at the foot of the stairs and near doorways you may find areas susceptible to excessive wear. Consider mats and flooring pads to save the floor where possible.

10. Trim and perimeter work. Determine which fixed objects you want to remove before installation, including baseboard trim or quarter round, wires, radiators, kitchen appliances, etc. The finished look of your floor may be improved if you make the effort to remove some of the fixed objects in your home. I chose not to remove my California closet, preferring to pay special attention to the trim cuts. In the end, it took about half a day to perfect the trim cuts but it remains one of my greatest accomplishments as a carpenter. After I show my floor off, I show off my closet trim work. No one gets it but me.

11. Floor filler. Everything fit together really well but despite my efforts, I found small gaps mostly on the perimeter. No one noticed but me, but I found that a little floor filler covers up the small imperfections. I found Dap floor filler sticks, like crayons, in the right color at Ace Hardware. Now even I can’t see the gaps any more.

12. If you want the click together, it does go down a little bit easier, but in my opinion not enough to warrant buying it. First, you may get one sanding out of it, but even that is not assured. Second, I find that the engineered product has a hollow sound when you walk on it. You’ll notice that all engineered flooring comes with sound dampers ‘to make the floor sound as quite as a solid wood floor’. For just a little more effort, I recommend solid flooring with tongue and groove. You can tell the difference.

13. After the dog and the water and the kitchen chairs have scratched and aged your floor to distraction, I have heard that Floor Revive is a great product for bringing your floor back to life. It works to fill in the small to medium sized scratches, hiding them very well.

Greg Pasquariello
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